Monday, August 30, 2010

I love feeding people, whether I bake it myself or not

Today we had a "thanks and goodbye" event for our current boss, before he returns to his "permanent" job in another district of our division.  My former boss returns from another division some time late in September.

When I was planning this sendoff - because when you work for the boss you get to organize them for *everyone*! - I got a lot of "are you baking?" questions.  My fans were sadly dissapointed. ;)  For once, no home baked treats to add to an ordered cake since it was also Move Dear Daughter Part 2 Weekend.  Fortunately, Longo's came to the rescue - I had ordered what was an absolutely scrumptious strawberry shortcake for 40 and every slice got eaten!  This is not normal at office events and, as it turns out, this cake was the boss' favourite flavour which I didn't know beforehand.  We commiserated about how neither of us likes Black Forest Cake, because with our shared heritage, we've both eaten waaaay too many of them.  Normally I don't even like whipped cream, but today's cake was an exception.

I think I'll take pity on some of my buddies and take in some of the Sour Cream Blueberry Bundt Cake that I did end up making on Sunday night...I just didn't tell anyone about it yet. ;)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It all starts with butter...

Last week I realized that I only had (gasp!) one pound of butter, cut into sticks, in my freezer.  Now, if you don't bake, you'd think that this is plenty of butter for any household.  Not so.  If you bake, it's not uncommon to use two sticks at a time.  I'm notorious for stockpiling baking supplies, but I'm very particular about what I'll buy now.  Fortunately, Gay Lea butter was on sale at my local grocer and picked up three pounds - that should hopefully last until October but I may need more for the Hallowe'en bake sale.

I've learned that it's worth getting really good, unsalted butter to bake with.  Gay Lea is my preferred choice and it's got to be unsalted.  You can always add a pinch of salt to your dry mix, but once it's already in the butter, it's harder to control.  When you're using it, it's also got to be very, very soft.  I never knew how important this was until I realized that when you read "add the sugar to the creamed butter", it's so the sugar will dissolve completely into the butter, without a grainy texture.  Since my butter is always rock hard from the freezer, I just leave it on the kitchen counter to defrost.  Even if I take it out first thing in the morning and don't use it until after dinner, I won't refrigerate it again.

For anyone that says "but it's fattening!", think of how little butter you'll actually be eating in each cookie, slice of cake or bread or scone.  Moderation people, it's all about moderation! ;)  Nothing compares to that lovely buttery baked taste.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Why I love the Barefoot Contessa so much

When I started baking from scratch four years ago, it was after watching many episodes of Ina Garten's "The Barefoot Contessa".  To be perfectly honest, it wasn't her main courses that held my attention, but when she featured baking. 

I had watched umpteen episodes of Martha Stewart baking, but it just seemed too intimidating to me - all those perfectly measured ingredients, laid out on a sheet tray on the counter waiting for her magical touch.  With Ina, she reminded me more of how I work in the kitchen.  There's flour on the counter, the ingredients are all over the place and the utensils just get dumped in the sink until I'm done mixing.  Ina made it seem so much more fun and relaxed.

The most important things I learned from Ina where *why* certain things had to be done, why ingredients needed to be measured accurately and why you had to make sure temps were right before anything went into the oven.  Until I watched her mix scones, I didn't know the reason butter had to be very cold was for the chemical reaction in the oven that caused the butter to melt and puff up those scones.  Hey, I had no idea it was actually chemistry! ;)

I make many of her recipes absolutely as they were written, but have adapted some of them to suit my taste.  Ina's carrot cake inspired my revised recipe, which has a lot more crushed pineapple, less oil and sugar and it's inhaled by my fans as soon as it's cooled.

I'm still looking forward to making her cranberry scones. :)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

My best friend thought of the name...

Why "The Bakers Daughter", you ask?  Well, for those of you who've know me well or for many years, you know that my mother is an extraordinary baker.  So much so that growing up I was too intimidated to try and bake anything that didn't come out of a box.  That's sacrilege in my family. ;)  Many of you have sampled my mum's goodies - whether it was during high school, at a bridal shower, or just hanging around my house sampling extra cookies after Christmas. My co-workers have also come love my mother, even though they've never met her. ;)

So, until four years ago, my most beloved kitchen tool, my red Kitchenaid mixer, only got used when my daughter would decide to bake - and she's a very good baker!  After getting my first Barefoot Contessa cookbook (I LOVE Ina Garten) and watching her faithfully, I thought I'd give baking from scratch a try.  It's safe to say that I haven't looked back.

I have to give props to my closest friend for coming up with the name for this blog - it absolutely fits who I am.  Hopefully it's going to be a way to keep my friends updated on what I'm making, how my skills are progressing and just how much stuff the gang at the office is getting to try!

Now I have to start planning for my United Way Hallowe'en bake sale...